Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce
This Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce is easy to make and incredibly tasty! Fish pieces are lightly battered and fried to crispy golden brown perfection. They’re then wok fried with fragrant aromatics, umami loaded Chinese black beans, and crisp onion and bell pepper in a glossy savory sauce!
I first tried Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce at a high-end Cantonese restaurant in a hotel here in Hong Kong a few years ago. It was incredibly delicious and hands down the BEST dish on the table that night. Hence, I decided to recreate it at home and share it with you all so that you can enjoy it too!
- Crispy golden brown lightly crusted tender fish pieces.
- Fragrant aromatics like spring onion, garlic, ginger, and fresh red chilies.
- Savory and salty fermented black beans and hot dried red chilies.
- Crisp and crunchy diced onion and red bell pepper.
- And everything gets kissed by a light savory sauce with a hint of sweetness!
Although you have to first marinate and deep fry the fish pieces, the actual stir-fry is a breeze and comes together in just 5 minutes. This is why I prefer to call it a wok fried dish. In the end, you have a magnificent dish with crispy fish pieces glistening in a light glossy sauce.
This Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce is delicious and rewarding on any weeknight in. However, it’s also impressive enough for entertaining in spite of not requiring hours in the kitchen. Pair it with steamed rice and a side of stir-fried Asian greens and you’ll have yourself a better than takeout Chinese feast at home!
Why This Recipe Works
- Quick and easy to make. In spite of having to deep-fry the fish, the final stir-fry comes together in just a few short minutes.
- Tasty crispy fish. Marinating the fish elevates the flavor, while coating the pieces in a potato and corn starch mixture yields a light, but crispy crust with tender fish on the inside once fried.
- Best flavors! Fermented black beans give the dish a rich umami flavor and dried red chilies add heat that tingles your tastebuds.
- Crisp veggies. The onion and red bell pepper retain most of their crunch and freshness due to cooking over high heat.
- Perfect for weeknights or entertaining. It’s a tasty Chinese main dish on any given weeknight, but also guaranteed to impress when entertaining.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutes
- Shao Xing Rice Wine: A fragrant Chinese cooking wine that is an Asian pantry staple. It has a floral aroma and is used in sauces and meat marinades. Look for it in an Asian or Chinese supermarket or a mainstream supermarket that’s well-stocked with international ingredients. Substitute with dry sherry if unavailable or apple juice if you’d like to keep this alcohol free.
- Oyster Sauce: Contrary to what one might think, oyster sauce does not taste very fishy or strongly of oysters. It is a thick brown and black-ish condiment with a sweet and savory umami flavor. Ditto the above on where to find it.
- Dark Soy Sauce: This is mainly used for color and not as salty as regular soy sauce. If you don’t have it on hand, substitute with an equal amount of low sodium light soy sauce.
- Potato Starch: Commonly used in Chinese cooking as a thickening agent for sauces, in meat marinades, and for coating meat or veggies before deep-frying. Substitute with corn starch if you don’t have it on hand.
- White Sugar: Just a pinch to balance out the savory flavors and spice from the chilies. I find that half a teaspoon is enough for me, but you can use a little more (1 teaspoon) if you like.
- Grouper/Garoupa Fillets: I used skin-on boneless grouper fillets and cut them into small pieces. I don’t mind the skin of grouper, but you can use boneless and skinless fillets if you’re not a fan of fish with skin. Feel free to use any other firm white fish like cod, mahi-mahi, halibut, tilapia, etc.
- Fermented Black Beans (douchi – 豆豉): These are also known as preserved or salted black beans. They are black soybeans that have been fermented with salt. They have a savory funky flavor and add umami to Cantonese, Chinese, and Southeast Asian dishes. Look for them in cans or packages at an Asian supermarket or a Chinese grocery store. You can also purchase them online. Once you open the can/package, transfer to a sealed airtight container and store in a cool dry area or in the fridge. In a pinch, you can substitute with a tablespoon of jarred black bean sauce like the one I used to make Chicken with Spicy Black Bean Sauce. Note that some pre-made black bean sauces can be quite salty. Use less or omit the kosher salt from the stir-fry sauce if using a pre-made sauce.
- Fresh Bird’s Eye Red Chilies: Just a few pieces to add extra heat. You can use any hot red chilies you like. Omit for a milder dish.
- Dried Red Chilies: I used Thai Jinda dried chilies which are quite spicy. Feel free to use any type of Chinese or Thai dried chilies you like. Adjust the quantity to taste depending on your heat level preference. Thai dried chilies tend to be hotter than most Chinese dried chilies. Use less if using the prior. Omit completely for a milder dish.
- Corn Starch & Potato Starch Mixture: To coat the fish before frying. Using a combination of corn and potato starch will result in a light, yet wonderfully crispy golden brown crust for the fried fish without the need for making a heavy batter. You can use all potato starch if you prefer. It is excellent for deep-frying and can withstand high temperatures. If you don’t have potato starch, substitute with tapioca starch or rice flour instead. You can use all corn starch, but be careful as it can sometimes clump when frying at high temperatures if used on its own .
- Peanut Oil: Or use any neutral cooking oil with a high smoke point. Vegetable, canola, rapeseed, rice bran oil, etc. are all good options.
Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.
How to Make Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce
Prep before the stir-fry:
1. Marinate the fish and prepare all the ingredients. Cut the fillets into small pieces. Then add to a bowl, followed by all the marinade ingredients. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients and whisk together the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce.
2. Coat the fish in starch mixture. Add corn starch and potato starch to a sealable bag and mix together with a spoon. Coat one fish piece at a time in the starch mixture. Shake off the excess and transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with the remaining fish pieces.
3. Fry the fish. Heat peanut oil in a small pot over high heat. Once hot, lower the heat. Working in batches, fry the fish until lightly golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Fry the rest of the fish pieces.
For the Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce:
1. Stir fry the aromatics. The spring onion white and light green parts, garlic, ginger, and fresh red chilies in a bit of oil over high heat until fragrant.
2. Add the black beans and dried red chilies. Stir-fry briefly to combine, taking care to not let the dried chilies burn.
3. Toss through the onion and bell pepper. Only for 10 seconds to combine so that they retain their crisp texture.
4. Add the fried fish pieces and sauce. Stir-fry for a few seconds using a scooping motion until everything is coated well in the sauce.
Serve! Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with spring onion green parts if desired! Serve immediately with warm steamed rice and enjoy!
You can also serve with a side of stir-fried Asian greens for a full meal if you like.
Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Stir-fry quickly over HIGH heat. You want the onion, bell pepper, and fried fish pieces to be only kissed by the hot wok so that they retain their crisp texture. Be sure to move quickly as the final wok fry should take about 5 minutes only.
- Adjust spice level to taste. Use less of (or omit) the fresh and dried red chilies to make this dish milder. You can deseed the fresh red chilies and shake out and discard the seeds from the dried red chilies too.
- Use a heavy bottomed deep skillet for the stir-fry if you don’t own a wok. Just make sure you cook over high heat and do not overcrowd the skillet. Everything will still come together beautifully.
If you’d like to make this dish healthier, you can shallow-fry the starch coated fish pieces in a pan instead. I suggest using an 8-inch or 10-inch skillet to shallow-fry in a quarter to half cup of oil. Shallow-fry 4-6 pieces at a time for 2-3 minutes, turning once or twice in between until golden brown.
They will last for 6 months in a sealed airtight container at room temperature in a cool dry area. However, they can last much longer, possibly even years, if they’re stored in a sealed airtight container and refrigerated.
Jarred black bean sauce sold at Asian supermarkets, Chinese grocery stores, and some mainstream supermarkets can be substituted. Lee Kum Kee produces a spicy black bean sauce and a black bean garlic sauce which are both quite tasty. However, some black bean sauces can be very salty. I recommend try a little bit of the sauce to gauge how salty it is before adding any additional salt to the stir-fry.
Unfortunately, no. The crispy fish texture doesn’t stay crispy for too long once off the stovetop. It’s best to enjoy this dish immediately after cooking.
- Use a different type of fish. Any firm white fish fillets like cod, sole, tilapia, mahi-mahi, haddock, wild Alaska pollock, catfish, snapper, etc. will work well for frying.
- Use different veggies. Use any colored bell pepper you like or a combination of two colors (red, green, yellow, orange). A handful of diced celery, snow peas, sugar snap peas, or sliced button or Asian brown mushrooms (such as shiitakes) thrown in with the onion and bell pepper would also taste delicious.
- Make it gluten-free. Use dry sherry instead of Shao Xing rice wine and a gluten-free soy sauce (low sodium preferred) and oyster sauce.
- Use shrimp/prawns: Swap the fish for jumbo shrimp or prawns. I recommend size 16/20 for the best juicy texture.
- Use chicken. For those who’re not seafood lovers, you can use boneless and skinless chicken pieces instead of fish! I prefer using chicken thighs over breasts, but either will work. Coat in the same starch mixture and fry pieces for about 3-4 minutes or until just cooked through. Then proceed with the stir-fry as indicated.
More Delicious Asian Stir-fries
- Crispy Prawns with Spicy Mango Mayonnaise
- Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
- Chicken with Spicy Black Bean Sauce
- XO Sauce Chicken & Chinese Broccoli Stir-fry
- Stir-fried Garlic Scapes with Pork & Tofu
- Or browse the entire Stir-fry and Chinese recipe collections.
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Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce
Fish pieces are lightly battered and fried to crispy golden brown perfection, and then wok fried with fragrant aromatics, umami loaded Chinese black beans, and crisp onion and bell pepper in a glossy savory sauce!
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 5 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stir-fry
- Cuisine: Chinese
For the Fish:
- 380 grams / 13.4 ounces Firm White Fish Fillets (I used grouper/garoupa) – cut into 1.5 to 2-inch pieces
- ¼ TSP Kosher Salt
- 2 TSP Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
- 2 TSP Shao Xing Rice Wine
- ¼ TSP Sesame Oil
- 2.5 TBLS Corn Starch
- 2.5 TBLS Potato Starch (see notes*)
- 3–4 cups Peanut Oil (or Vegetable/Canola Oil – as needed to fill 1/3 of your frying vessel)
For the Sauce:
- ½ TSP Potato Starch (or Corn Starch)
- ½ – 1 TSP White Sugar, to taste
- ¼ TSP Kosher Salt
- ¼ – ½ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
- 1 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
- 1.5 TBLS Shao Xing Rice Wine
- ½ TSP Dark Soy Sauce
- ½ TBLS Oyster Sauce
- 1 TSP Sesame Oil
- ¼ cup / 60ml Water
For the Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce:
- 2 Spring Onion (white and light green parts only) – chopped at an angle into ½-cm pieces
- 6 Garlic cloves – thinly slices
- 1.5-inch chunk Ginger – peeled and julienned (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1–3 fresh Red Chilies (optional – Bird’s Eye or any hot red chilies) – thinly sliced
- ½ medium Yellow Onion – sliced in ¼-in wide strips, then sliced at an angle into 1-inch pieces
- ½ medium Red Bell Pepper – deseeded, sliced in ¼-in wide strips, then sliced at an angle into 1-inch pieces
- 1.5 TBLS Fermented Black Beans – rinsed and smashed
- 2–10 Dried Red Chilies (optional – see notes*) – cut into ½-inch pieces
- 3 TBLS Peanut Oil (or any neutral flavored oil with a high smoke point)
- To Garnish (optional): Chopped spring onion (dark green parts only)
- Marinate the fish: Clean and pat-dry the fish fillets. Cut into 1.5 to 2-inch pieces. Transfer to a bowl and add the kosher salt, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, and sesame oil. Use a spoon to gently mix and coat the fish pieces with the marinade. Set aside to marinate for 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Make the sauce: Whisk together the potato starch, white sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and water in a small measuring cup (or bowl) until combined well.
- Prepare the fresh/dry ingredients: Chop/slice the spring onion white and light green parts, garlic, ginger, red chilies, yellow onion, and red bell pepper as indicated in the ingredients section. Rinse the black beans and smash with the flat side of your knife. Remove the stems of the dried red chilies and snip into ½-inch pieces. (Shake out and discard some or all of the seeds for a milder dish if desired.)
- Coat the fish in starch: Add 2.5 tablespoons each of corn starch and potato starch to a large Ziploc bag. Mix with a spoon until evenly combined. Working with one piece at a time, shake off the excess marinade and add to the bag. Turn to coat with the starch mixture, then shake off the excess starch and transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with the remaining fish pieces until all are coated in the starch mixture.
To Fry the Fish:
- Fry the fish: Fill a small pot with peanut oil until it is 1/3 of the way full. Heat over high heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 175°C/350°F. Then turn the heat down to low. Working in batches of 5-6 pieces at a time, add and fry the fish for 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally, until lightly golden and crispy. Using a metal slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Repeat until all of the remaining fish pieces are fried.
For the Wok Fried Fish in Black Bean Sauce:
- Stir fry the aromatics: Heat 3 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large wok over high heat. Once hot, add the spring onion white and light green parts, garlic, ginger, and fresh red chilies. Stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the black beans and dried red chilies. Add the fermented black beans and dried red chilies. Stir-fry for 20-25 seconds, taking care to not let the dried chilies burn.
- Add the onion and bell pepper. Add the yellow onion and red bell pepper. Toss for 10 seconds to combine.
- Add the fish and sauce: Give the sauce a quick stir with a spoon to loosen up the starch that will have settled at the bottom. Add the fried fish pieces into the wok and pour the sauce over everything. Stir-fry using a scooping motion, taking care to not break any of the fish pieces, until everything is coated well in the sauce – about 30-45 seconds. Switch off the heat.
- To Serve: Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with chopped spring onion dark green parts (if using). Serve immediately with warm steamed rice and a side of stir-fried Asian greens if desired.
- Asian sauces/condiments. Shao Xing rice wine a Chinese cooking wine with a fragrant floral aroma. It is used in marinades and sauces. Oyster sauce is a thick brown and black-ish color condiment with a sweet and savory umami flavor. Both can be found in an Asian or Chinese supermarket, some mainstream supermarkets that are well-stocked with international ingredients and online. Dark soy sauce is used mainly for color and can be substituted with an equal amount of low sodium light soy sauce if unavailable.
- Grouper/Garoupa Fillets. I used skin-on boneless grouper fillets. I don’t mind the skin of grouper, but you can use boneless and skinless fillets if you’re not a fan of fish with skin. Feel free to use any other firm white fish like cod, sole, mahi-mahi, halibut, tilapia, catfish, snapper, etc.
- Corn Starch & Potato Starch Mixture. Using a combination of corn and potato starch will result in a light, yet wonderfully crispy golden brown crust for the fried fish. You can use all potato starch if you prefer. It is excellent for deep-frying and can withstand high temperatures. If you don’t have potato starch, substitute with tapioca starch or rice flour instead. You can use all corn starch, but be careful as it can sometimes clump when frying at high temperatures when used on its own.
- Fermented Black Beans (douchi – 豆豉). These are also known as preserved or salted black beans and can be found in packages/cans in an Asian supermarket or a Chinese grocery store. In a pinch, you can substitute with a tablespoon of jarred black bean sauce like the one I used to make Chicken with Spicy Black Bean Sauce. Note that some pre-made black bean sauces can be quite salty. Use less or omit the kosher salt from the stir-fry sauce if using a pre-made sauce.
- Fresh red chilies. Use less, deseed the chilies, or omit if you prefer a milder dish.
- Dried red chilies. I used Thai Jinda dried chilies which are quite spicy. Feel free to use any type of Chinese or Thai dried chilies you like. Adjust the quantity to taste depending on your heat level preference. Thai dried chilies tend to be hotter than most Chinese dried chilies. Use less if using the prior. You can shake out the seeds (or omit completely) for a milder dish.
- See ‘Variations’ section above if you’d like to customize this dish.
Shop the Recipe
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 424
- Sugar: 3.8g
- Sodium: 563.2mg
- Fat: 25.8g
- Saturated Fat: 4.4g
- Unsaturated Fat: 19.5g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 16.8g
- Fiber: 1.6g
- Protein: 31.3g
- Cholesterol: 56.2mg
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.
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